Prayer - without Ceasing?

Paul writes in his first letter to the Thessalonians:
Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing.

I remember as a young man hearing pastors talk about spending an hour in prayer.

I heard about the "John Wesley hour" as a reference to how he would rise at 4am to spend 4 hours of devotional time with God.

We would sing sweet hour of prayer:

Sweet hour of prayer, Sweet hour of prayer
That calls me from a world of care
And bids me at my Father's throne
Make all my wants and wishes known
In seasons of distress and grief
My soul has often found relief
And oft escaped the tempter's snare
By Thy return, sweet hour of prayer


Well, I just assumed everyone did just that...now I tend to doubt it.

A.W. Tozer famously writes:
"Christians don't tell lies, they just go to church and sing them."

But as a young man I thought everybody spend a "sweet hour of prayer" so I had to do it.

The ego discipline robber had to climb that ladder to God.

+ + + PRAYER + + +

I remember the days, on my knees at my bed...spending my time in prayer.

With the clock where I could see it.
Watching a clock sure makes the time go more slowly.

I laugh about it now, but as a young man I really felt pressure to pray for one hour.

I would pray for everything I could think of...glance at the clock...only 15 minutes has gone by?!?!?

I usually tried to practice this discipline early the morning, so most of the time I would fight sleep. So my desire to DO SOMETHING for God became the very thing that flogged me.
I felt guilty for falling asleep...so I would take a few minutes to ask for forgiveness for falling asleep.

Just a quick aside: I think praying yourself to sleep is a great way to enter sleep...with your heart and mind on the Lord.


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What we are talking about it is discursive prayer.
When you move from one topic/subject to the next.

So I was taught several methods...or strategies for having a prayer time.

Use the ACTS method.
A = Adoration - so basically take a few minutes to worship
C = Confession - make sure to confess your sins
T = Thanksgiving - give thanks for the good things God has done
S = Supplication - ask God for various things

I used this for a while.
I also used the Martin Luther idea of praying through the Lord's Prayer...all of it was to "log time" in prayer.

These are both good methods...and I would urge you to use these or any other method that helps you in God's presence...in prayer.
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At this point I had never heard anyone say anything about listening as part of prayer.
Wow, that could have taken some more time off the clock!

I can tell you that MUCH of my "time" in prayer now is listening...just trying to listen.

Ok. For you to grow in the discipline of prayer the first thing I would say is - forget the "sweet hour of prayer."

A number of years ago I read a biography of Smith Wigglesworth. He was an uneducated plumber in England.

In 1882 he married Polly who was a preacher in the Salvation Army. Polly taught Smith how to read, using the Bible and by the turn of the century he had become an on-fire preacher.

God also started using him in an extraordinary healing ministry.

Someone once asked Smith Wigglesworth how he prayed and his response really caught my attention:

"I rarely pray for more than twenty minutes, but rarely does twenty minutes go by that I do not pray."

When I read that it was LIFE for me.
Smith Wigglesworth, in a quick little statement summed up our goal.

I have read this quote using 30 minutes as well. The amount of time does not matter.

Spending TIME with God is not the focus...
But trying to recognize that God is always with you - that is the point.

This is what I want to encourage you to towards - short moments of prayer throughout the day.

GOD'S HEART AS YOUR FATHER
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I try to always answer my phone when my daughters call me.
It makes me happy when they call me.
I am not sitting around:
"Well, Hope has not called me in several days. I guess she doesn't care about me."

I grew up talking to myself. Does anyone else do this?

Some of you might talk to yourself, not out loud, but through thinking.

After coming to Christ and struggling to pray for longer periods of time it hit me one day:

Rather than engage in this self-talk, why not direct these thoughts to God?

So that is what I did. When I would realize that I was talking to myself, I would pause for second and redirect my thoughts and words to God.

I realized that my day had a lot more prayer in it and my heart was far more focused on the Lord throughout the day.

Now this did not replace my devotional time for reading the scriptures, prayer and other things "alone" with God...

But I just stopped my legalistic attempts to spend an hour in prayer and tried to focus more on giving more attention to God throughout the day.

I was talking to a friend about this concept this week. He had also heard the Smith Wigglesworth quote and told me that for a while he would set an alarm on his phone for every 20 minutes.

When it went off he would just try, in the midst of his activities to direct his heart to God in simple prayers.

If you could take just 20 seconds to direct your heart to God every 20 minutes of your day -- you will have prayed for 16 minutes.

If you could focus your heart on the Lord for 1 minute you will have spent 48 minutes in prayer each day.

But the goal is not to log TIME on the clock.

The goal is to allow the Spirit of the Lord to be with you...
which will give you peace...
and joy...
and help to keep you from being consumed with things that do not matter...
and help you to focus on Him and what He wants.

LET'S PRAY

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Troy Community Church

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Troy Community Church
Christian Fellowship
1300 Henderson Highway
Troy, AL 36079